Jane Tomlinson: The indomitable spirit of an iron lady

Jane Tomlinson

Jane Tomlinson (Image credit: AFP)

The recent passing of Jane Tomlinson brought to an end a remarkable fight against terminal cancer, but her memory, her achievements and her fund live on. She used her final years to raise almost £2 (€2.8) million for charity, with three very considerable cycling feats being part of that fundraising. One of those who accompanied her on her Ride Across America spoke to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about her incredible story.

Upon hearing the diagnosis of a terminal disease, most people would understandably crumble with the news. This wasn't the case for Jane Tomlinson, who was told in 2000 that she had an estimated six months to live. The then-36 year-old Leedswoman surprised her family when she took out a gym membership shortly afterwards, and then defied all expectations when she survived a further seven years.

During that time she embarked on a number of incredible challenges, using these both as a means to live life to the fullest and also to raise money for cancer charities. The Jane's Appeal organisation was set up and, to date, has raised £1.85 (€2.59) million.

Tomlinson's campaign began in 2001 with Cancer Research UK's Race for Life in Leeds and the 10-kilometre Abbey Dash. After several other big challenges (see sidebar), she took up endurance cycling and undertook the John O'Groats to Land's End ride in the spring of 2003. Starting in the northernmost tip of Scotland and dropping down to what is the extreme south-westward point of Great Britain in Cornwall, the ride traverses the whole of the island of Great Britain and is, taking the route followed by Tomlinson, over 1000 miles [1609 kilometres] in length.

Although she was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, she and her co-pilot, brother Luke Goward, successfully completed the trip. Then after more running events, including her second and third London Marathons, she and her brother embarked on their second major cycling challenge in May 2004. The Rome to Home ride took them 2500 miles [4023 kilometres] from the Italian capital to Leeds, passing over Mont Ventoux and many other daunting climbs along the way. It was tough, but worth it; the tandem bike ride saw her raise more than £232,000 (€324,000) in six weeks.

Later that year she did the Salford and London Triathlons, plus a second Gatorade Half-Ironman UK Triathlon. She met Ryan Bowd at two of these events as he was working in a PR capacity in Salford and at the half-Ironman. Impressed by her determination, he told her that she should consider something even bigger. To his surprise, she took him up on that.

"At the time I said to her in a half-serious, half-joking tone, 'now that you have done this, you should do a full Ironman. And if you do decide to do that, I would be happy to help,'" he told Cyclingnews recently. "About six months later I got a call from [her husband] Mike saying, 'we will take you up on that offer.' We became friends from there."

To read the full feature on Jane Tomlinson, click here.

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